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From the big league to God’s team

Tampa chaplain FR. CARL MELCHIOR used to work for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers . . .

Fr. Carl Melchior

Fr. Carl Melchior

Fr. Carl Melchior
Tampa Bay Chapter

Many people who meet Fr. Carl “Buster” Melchior are surprised when they learn that the 52-year-old priest worked nine years as an assistant equipment manager for the NFL’s Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Father Melchior also worked in sports medicine for almost six years until his soul-searching led him to consider the priesthood and enter the seminary in his mid 30s. Ordained six years ago, he currently serves as vocations director for the Diocese of St. Petersburg, Fla., and helps young men discern if God has also called them to the priesthood. He spoke to Legatus magazine’s editorial assistant Brian Fraga.

When did you first think you might become a priest?

It was always there. It kind of vanished in high school. I went to college and then worked for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers for nine seasons. I continued to go to Mass. Then when I was around 30, the call to priesthood came back. The Lord kind of let me have football. He basically said, “OK, this is what you want. This is what you’re going to get.” And it wasn’t as fulfilling as I probably thought it was going to be when I was 19 or 20.

As director of the Office of Vocations for the diocese, what do you do?

My role is to promote priestly vocations and to help those men who have discerned to walk through the process of entering seminary, as well as being a liaison for the bishop’s office to the seminary and working with the men who are in formation.

How did you become involved with Legatus?

A year-and-a-half into ordination, Fr. Ken Malley — who was a very good friend of mine, who vested me in my ordination, who was my first pastor — was also a Legatus chaplain. We were at Mass with the bishop, and Fr. Ken said he had prayed about it and that it was time for him to step down as Legatus chaplain. Father Ken looked at me and said, “Would you like to do it? You know everybody. You’d be a good fit.” The bishop looked at me and said, “If you would like it, I’ll appoint you.” And that’s really kind of how it happened.

How would you describe your experience with Legatus?

It’s kind of a parish for me. Legatus members minister to me, and I minister to them. It’s a nice step back from the specific ministry I do with young people discerning their vocation into a different ministry.

Do you have any advice for business leaders?

A business leader, like a seminarian in certain aspects, can lose sight of what they’re called to. So when I think of Catholic business leaders, I think one of my roles is to remind them that the Lord is really leading them. The Lord is guiding them, and the Lord’s hand is present even in those tough times when they have to make a tough business decision.

What is something people are surprised to learn about you?

That I spent nine years with an NFL football team and now I’m a Catholic priest. That’s kind of two things people don’t equate together.

I’m still an avid Tampa Bay Buccaneer fan. We have the NFL Draft coming up, a high holy day in my life. The University of Florida Gators and the Bucs are my top teams. I grew up in Tampa, on the bay, so I fished all my life. I still enjoy being out on the bay. I don’t do it quite as much as I would like to. There isn’t a lot of time to relax here.

BRIAN FRAGA is Legatus magazine’s editorial assistant.